After a long quiet spell with no change to bus services in Cheshire, we now have a lot happening throughout August and into the start of September. Some services get minor timetable changes, whatever that might mean. From 2015-08-22, these are D&G’s services 1A and 1B between Crewe Business Park, Crewe and Bentley Motors as well as service 78 between Nantwich and Rode Heath. Then, on the week commencing 2015-08-31, it is the turn of Arriva’s service 130 between Macclesfield and Manchester (week commencing 2015-08-31) together with Network Warrington’s services 5, 5E and 35 between Warrington and Altrincham
. In the same week, Stagecoach’s service 378 between Wilmslow and Stockport reverts to its normal timetable once the summer school holidays are over.
In Crewe from 2015-08-22, there are several changes caused by D&G and GHA ceasing to operate service 9. Suggested alternatives include a new service 7 operated by D&G between Crewe and Elm Drive or service 8 between Wistaston Green, Crewe, Sydney and Elm Drive
. The latter sees Routemaster buses operating its evening journeys and a minor change to daytime ones operated by D&G. From 2015-08-24, Routemaster buses are to be operating new services 9 and 9A between Crewe and Wistaston and a new service 20 with three journeys between Crewe, Kingsway and South Cheshire College.
Other changes to bus services around Crewe include the truncation of D&G service 6 to operate between Crewe and Shavington only. Arriva’s services 6, 31 and 31A are suggested alternatives for getting between Crewe and Leighton Hospital. GHA services 39 and 44 are possibilities for those travelling between Shavington and Nantwich. From 2015-08-24 though, D&G is introducing a new service 12 between Crewe, Coppenhall and Leighton Hospital that goes via Mablins Lane and Parkers Road. From 2015-09-06, First’s service 3 between Crewe and Newcastle or Keele no longer serves Leighton Hospital so the preceding collections of services have been suggested as alternatives.
Encouragingly, GHA is offering extra journeys on services 38 between Macclesfield, Congleton and Crewe, 88 between Knutsford, Wilmslow and Altrincham and 130 between Macclesfield and Manchester from the week commencing 2015-08-31 along with additional early morning and early evening journeys on a new service 27X between Macclesfield and Knutsford that complements the existing services 27, 27A and 27B that they already operate. Service 130 is seeing new early and late Monday to Saturday journeys and something similar is coming to service 38 too so I will be interested to see what is being proposed. Service 88 is getting two extra early evening journeys so they must be doing well with that since they enhanced it over a year ago.
Lastly, 2015-09-06 sees a consolidation of services acquired by D&G from Bakerbus earlier in the year. Service 99 is to be withdrawn with service 94
revised to serve Congleton as well as Biddulph and Newcastle. This seems to fit the theme of all the changes with any withdrawals being substituted by new or existing services with new journeys being added to existing services too. The picture is not a discouraging one then and I shall await with interest details of those extra journeys whose times I have yet to know. This entry may be tweaked a little yet.
Update 2015-05-21 15:15: The BBC is reporting
that this strike is called off and I saw Arriva Trains Wales and others communicating the same. What follows below this message looks to be irrelevant now though there still could be some variation from the expected timetable where notice has been insufficient and where railway engineering works are planned. Extended Bank Holiday rail travel plans are a possibility now after all.
Any designs that I have for the coming bank holiday weekend needed to be trimmed or culled because of the upcoming 24 hour Network Rail strike by the RMT and TSSA trade unions from 17:00 on Monday into Tuesday. Putting my knowledge to use, here is what the train companies say about their service levels. Essentially, there are some services but some many are not running that the railway is going to be useless while the strike is in progress. There may be some hope that it is called off at the last minute but that is not how it looks and I writing this.
Network Rail has an Industrial Action section on their website that summarises what is happening but it is what the train operators that really is telling. Here is a summary of what they have to say:
Abellio Greater Anglia are operating nothing after midday on Monday while only a few skeleton services are on offer on Tuesday with some disruption possible on Wednesday too. All is on their website so a check there would do no harm.
Arriva Trains Wales have a summary of what limited services they will be operating and there are not that many so the general advice is stay away until all is back to normal. Wednesday will see some disruption in the morning time too.
Caledonian Sleeper were being coy about what is happening with their services when I checked but it might be best to assume that none are operating at all and reschedule things. Nevertheless, things still can change and they have somewhere to add that information online
CrossCountry only have trains running on small sections of their network with much, including Macclesfield and Manchester, seeing no service at all.
East Midlands Trains services are finishing earlier than usual on the Bank Holiday and hardly any are operating on Tuesday. Most of those are going to and from London St. Pancras. This is a service summary so you can find out more.
First Great Western has a longer list of train services that running than I would have expected. There remains a good deal of disruption too so it is best not to expect anything like a normal service.
Grand Central are operating to a reduced timetable
on Monday with no services running on Tuesday.
Hull Trains have a special timetable
in operation on Monday while there are no services at all on Tuesday.
London Midland too are running a very restricted service.
Northern Rail have details of what services are running and most are not with both days being affected. For clarity, the closed routes are listed too.
ScotRail only have a small number of commuter services running around Glasgow and Edinburgh
. Both days are seeing most of Scotland without a train service of any sort.
Southwest Trains have no services at all on Tuesday and those on Monday will have ceased by late afternoon. More updates may be added on the relevant section of their website.
Transpennine Express have extensive details of the services that they will have running and even Wednesday morning will not be spared some disruption until signalling staff are back at work and trains are back where they needed to be.
Virgin Trains will have no trains running on the West Coast Mainline on either of the two days and even a suspension of the strike will not mean a complete reinstatement of services either. Passengers are being encouraged to travel either on Sunday or Wednesday with restrictions of advanced purchase tickets being eased accordingly. It is not as severe on the East Coast Mainline
though there still will be major disruption with ticket bookings suspended for either of the two days.
As you see from the above, travelling by rail hardly is going to be a viable option for around two whole days and that is a pity. Though the last railway strike this that I remember was in July 2006, it is not what the railways really need and it might be time for railwaymen to realise that they too need to sell their industry’s services and that strike don’t do that. Personal motorised travel remains the major competitor though National Express is increasing its coach service provision to capture some of the demand, as will Megabus and Scottish Citylink
. Will they cope? Only time will answer that.
All has felt rather quiet in the world of Cheshire East bus services in recent months. With the cuts that we have been seeing since 2011, that can be viewed as a good thing. There are times when no news can be good news and it has felt that bus services were in managed decline under the current government, which is how those thoughts developed in my mind.
However, we now have some good news for Knutsford too for service 27/27A/27B to and from Macclesfield is set to become hourly and service 88 to and from both Wilmslow and Altrincham is to become half-hourly in frequency. Also, the 88 service will call at Wilmslow’s train station too. While these are Monday to Saturday services with no Sunday operations, these are encouraging developments that I would like to see prospering and they come into place at the end of the month.
Improvements continue with Congleton’s town services being contracted to GHA after a turn with D&G on most of them and BakerBus having retained one from its original roster. If I remember correctly, D&G definitely was providing services on a commercial basis and I cannot speak for BakerBus. The continuing route numbers will be 90, 91 and 92 with D&G’s 39 being dropped. The places being served include Bromley, Mossley and Buglawton. Service 42 from here to Crewe also transfers to GHA with that seeing improvements too. The extension to Crewe train station may be getting dropped but there is to be an hourly service over the whole route from Monday to Saturday so weekends see a doubling of the number of journeys starting and ending in Congleton compared to what it is now.
Some services around Crewe and Nantwich have been replaced. These include Nantwich town service 53 as well as routes 44 and 44M. Routes 6 and 6M are to be extended as far as Nantwich and Millfields with service of Rail House, Gresty Road reinstated using a new right hand turn from Nantwich Road. The latter also gets reinstated on GHA’s service 6E too. Macclesfield to Crewe service 38 gets extended as far as Nantwich on Sundays replace the current 45/45A service on that day of the week. D&G get a contract for that portion of the extended 38 too. As for the remainder of the week, service will stay as it is and service 45 and 45A will see some alterations. Route 45 will serve Davenport Avenue in Nantwich with the last journey of the day reaching Beefeater, Marshfield Bank. The Saturday 08:12 service journey is to be replaced by a 07:50 one on service 45.
There are more Crewe-related contract wins for GHA too with the Sunday and bank holiday workings on Crewe town services 8 and 8A along with Monday to Saturday evening services commencing from Crewe bus station at 19:00, 20:00 and 2100 coming their way. Monday to Friday afternoon journeys on Crewe town service 9 have been awarded too to partially replace the withdrawn BakerBus service. Saturday journeys on service 78 between Nantwich and Scholar Green also are going here along with later Monday to Friday journeys that D&G will not operate on a commercial basis. GHA also are revising timetables for Nantwich circular services 51, 52 and 52A as well as that of service 39 between there and Crewe via Shavington and services 72 & 73 between Nantwich and Whitchurch now that the 75 contract has gone to Routemaster Buses.
The changes for D&G are not all losses though with their taking on service 32 from Sandbach to Crewe from BakerBus. There are to be four journeys each way on Saturdays and the first journey of the day towards Sandbach starting from Crewe train station and the last journey of the day from Sandbach terminating at the train station too from Monday to Friday. The current 16:45 journey from Sandbach is set to run at 16:35 too. Services 85 and 85B no longer will continue to Hanley though and will terminate at Newcastle instead.
Arriva continues its penchant for service trimming with its Crewe town service 6 losing its 06:50, 07:20, 10:50, 14:20, 17:30, 18:00, 18:30 journeys. Service of Rail House, Gresty Road get reinstated with new right hand turn from Nantwich Road. Its Crewe town service 8 also loses its 07:35, 10:05, 14:05, 17:35 and 18:05 journeys. Service 130 between Macclesfield and Manchester also sees a little trimming with the Monday to Friday 17:40 departure from Macclesfield being truncated at Wilmslow and the Saturday 18:18 departure from Manchester to Wilmslow getting withdrawn. It’s not all bad news though with route 37/37A/37E between Crewe, Sandbach and Winsford getting an improved Monday to Saturday evening service. Service 84 between Crewe and Chester also sees some timetable tweaks but I have yet to learn what those are.
Otherwise, Routemaster Buses has secured a council contract for the following Nantwich rural services:
- Thursday and Saturday only service 56 between Tiverton to Nantwich
- Monday to Saturday service 68 between Leighton Hospital, Church Minshull and Nantwich
- Wednesday only service 75 between Nantwich - Market Drayton
- Friday only service 79 between Audlem, Nantwich and Hanley
- Tuesday only service 83 between Nantwich, Bunbury and Chester
- Monday only service 89 between Nantwich and Wrexham
Of these, services 56, 75 and 83 are existing services while services 68, 79 and 89 are new ones. Route 83 is gaining a revised timetable too.
All in all, there are a lot of council contracts being let here and that makes me wonder where all of the money has originated and how long any such largesse might last given the predicted slowdown in economic growth. Nevertheless, having any glint of good news after what has felt like a sustained managed decline in bus services is a pleasant reprieve. Being of Irish extraction, all the spending on road resurfacing and other things by Cheshire East makes me wonder what has happened or whether it has anything to do with next year’s Westminster elections. Hopefully, we will not be back to brutal austerity after those but only time will tell.
Last weekend saw me stretch it to head up to Oban. It was August 2008 when I last went there so it was high time for a return to the place. Walks took me along the shore of Loch Etive and along the eastern coastline of Mull so I did spread out from my base and the weather was more obliging than weather forecasts were leading me to believe.
Because it is a long way from Macclesfield, going by train probably is best though an off-peak return is costly at £115.30. The way up saw changes in Manchester, Preston and Glasgow instead of suggested route options that oddly took in Stafford and Crewe. Though railway engineering was ongoing between Bolton and Preston, Transpennine Express continued to operate trains between Manchester Airport, Preston and the likes of Blackpool with a diversion via Wigan which involved tantalisingly slow movement through Wigan North Western station. That train was both busy and late so I was lucky to get any sort of seat on the thing with many standing. Apart from that, the other sections of the journey were fairly pleasant so I cannot issue too many complaints. The return journey involved the same changing points and was a little more enjoyable.
The changeover from Glasgow Central to Glasgow Queen Street is made to loom large on railway journey planners but in reality is something like a fifteen minute walk that I once did in around ten minutes. Doing the same between Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria takes around twenty minutes so Glasgow’s main train stations are closer together and Buchanan Bus Station is of the same duration from the principal train stations so walking is viable there too.
Getting to and from Oban has improved from the three or four return journeys that I would have expected and I counted something like eight on summer weekdays. Many of these would involve piggybacking off the train to Mallaig and Fort William with train division at Crianlarich and there also are trains travelling solo to Oban and the 16:37 departure that took me there was one of those and that train left at 20:36 to return to Glasgow offering anyone living in Scotland’s Central Belt the chance of a longer day trip to the Isle of Mull while later ferries are running.
Speaking of ferries, it can feel as if Oban is better connected to nearby islands than other parts of the mainland. For instance, the ferry to Mull travels at a decent pace and offers up to seven each way sailings a day while Kerrera enjoys a very frequent largely passenger service only a mile or two down the road from Oban. Other islands like Lismore, Coll, Tiree, Barra, South Uist and Colonsay also see sailings from Oban.
Maybe it is a reality of the mountainous hinterland of Oban as much as the outcome of the Clearances but it can feel as if frequent bus services stick to the coastline. The 405 and 005 serve Connel and Benderloch
from Monday to Saturday and there is the 410 on Sundays
. All of these have an hourly frequency with extra schoolday journeys extending as far as Appin though the Monday to Saturday service 918 to Fort William
could be a better bet for those parts so long as the timings of the three return journeys suit what you want to do. There also is an interesting if less frequent service 408 that goes all the way to Bonawe on the shore of Loch Etive
and service 418 to Easdale and North Cuan
with latter offering a ferry crossing to Luing.
Aside from the foregoing, Oban gets a smattering of Monday to Saturday town services
going to the town’s more outlying fringes like Soroba, Ganavan and Gallanchmore but what hits me is how limit local bus connections to the likes of Dalavich, Taynuilt and Dalmally. If it were not for train and long distance coach services, the latter pair would be stranded altogether and that brings me to the title of this piece. To get to either of those places for commencing a walk, you either need to start from Oban around 08:00 or 09:00 or wait until just after 12:00. Whatever express service used to run around 11:00 is no more and I find myself challenging the idea of the 975 timetable (Oban to Glasgow)
shadowing that of the trains, albeit with only three return journeys a day too. Even the summertime Citylink Oban to Dundee service only offers one journey each way when there once was two and that offered a gap filler. To be fair, Citylink did try to offer more connections in 2008 when it was embroiled in a bus war with West Coast Motors. Whatever innovation was shown at the time appears to have been lost since then and both parties did have the good sense to patch up their differences.
As it happened, the 12:11 from Oban to Glasgow was mobbed on the Saturday of my weekend away. It was if everyone was leaving at the end of the high season when Sunday’s weather showed what they were leaving after them if only they could see past the rain on the day of their departure. the inadequacy of the two carriage train was emphasised by Scotrail’s hiring of a coach to assist them in moving folk about. There also was a bother with luggage being in a wheelchair space and I could have done without one gentleman talking about the effects that lifting heavy luggage on him after a relatively recent operation. While sparing you all the details, I was glad to have a seat and to leave them on their way at Taynuilt. On this basis, having a train departure at around 10:30 would have seemed sensible and would have got me an earlier start to my walk too. However, the same train departure on Monday was much quieter and all the more enjoyable apart maybe from moments when someone started to watch something on his phone without headphones but that irritation has faded now. the weekend had been good to me anyway and I quite fancy a return sometime soon so that’s a good thing to be able to say after any trip away.
Following the intervention of the U.K.’s HMRC, the London & Lough Swilly Railway Company is no more after a period of financial difficulties. The name sounds like an anachronism in that the company essentially was a bus operator for its last decades and a decent website came about only in the last few years and remains online at the time of writing too.
Here is what the company to say for itself on the front page of its website:
The Londonderry & Lough Swilly Railway Company was set up by an act of parliament in 1853 by the then Parliament of Great Britain & Ireland. The first track between Derry and Forland Point was completed in 1863 with a further line to Buncrana in 1864. Further extensions were completed with a branch line from Buncrana to Carndonagh and a line from Derry via Tooban Junction to Letterkenny completed in 1883, this was further extended to Burtonport in 1895.
In 1929 due to financial difficulties the directors decided to close some of the lines and replace them with buses and road freight. The railway finally closed in 1953 when the Buncrana - Derry line ceased. The company presently operates a cross border bus service between Derry and Buncrana, Letterkenny, Moville and various towns in Inishowen and north Donegal. In addition, the Swilly also operate a school bus service in Donegal under contract to C.I.E. The company also operate a Vehicle Testing Centre at its Bonagee garage in Letterkenny for PSV and commercial vehicles. The company presently employs more than 90 people.
The company is the oldest surviving railway company set up in the Victorian era that is still trading as a commercial concern.
The Derry Journal has its piece on the chequered history of the company that closed its doors last month. Its network extended west from Derry across the north of Donegal and neither Bus Éireann nor Ulsterbus strayed that much onto its patch. Even the former contracted out school bus services to Lough Swilly on behalf of Éire’s Department of Education & Skills.
Before we get to talking about possible replacements for the Swilly routes that have been lost, here is a list with links to the old timetables too:
Buncrana - Derry
Carndonagh - Buncrana
Carndonagh - Derry
Derry - Culmore
Greencastle - Derry
Gweedore - Letterkenny
Kerrykeel - Letterkenny
Letterkenny - Derry
Muff - Derry
As of the moment of writing, most of these have yet to be replaced if my information is correct. Bus Éireann has sorted out all the school services
that Swilly used to operate so those will remain. They also are revised their Letterkenny to Derry service
to mitigate the loss of Swilly’s journeys. The route numbers are 64 and 480, and the timetables combine to give reasonably comprehensive coverage of the day.
Ulsterbus has taken over the Muff to Derry service and it is numbered FY16
. The service frequency looks good though there is a late start of 12:00 from Derry on Saturdays. It also has been reported that McGonagle’s of Buncrana have taken over the service between there and Derry
and that bus passes are invalid on it due to a current lack of reimbursement from the authorities. That company appears not to have a website so I have yet to see a timetable for the new service.
Other than the above, there has been little sign of other routes being reactivated though Highland Radio had a story about Boyce Travel expressing interest without much in the way of a response
. Quite what happens next is unknown so it will be a case of waiting and watching. It would be a pity if all the routes were lost because of a company failure.